I am not an ambitious
man. I tend to hold on to things. The dividend
is the having
, I’ve always figured. I’ve never gotten rid of the hockey cards I collected when I was a kid. Although most of my collection is scrubs
, it does include Wayne Gretzky
card. I still have the comic books
I bought as a teenager. I haven’t read them for years. There are clothes I’ve only worn a few times in my dresser from when I was thinner, including a nice pair of Levi’s
. I keep coins dated the year I was born whenever I come across them. I never throw out magazines, even ones with recipes that have gone out of style, and I buy books and never read them. The only downside
of some pleasing memories is dealing with their tangibility
There is a park near my house. It’s not a big park, but it has a wide enough grassy area for boys to play catch, with dense hedges at either end that gulp down their more wayward throws; creaky swing sets with sneaker-worn trenches under them; a large octagonal sandbox the neighborhood cats can be seen walking away from with even more satisfied looks on their faces than is usual for cats; and a path through it that's lighted in the evening and at night, but not brightly enough to stop some young people from lurking on the gym apparatus, defending their tags, and filling the air with the smell of some strange smoke.
I love theatre. I’m not ambitious enough to go often though. Back when my wife and I were still newlyweds we went for a weekend to the Stratford Festival, and stayed at a Bed and Breakfast, and saw As You Like It and King Lear. William Hutt was Lear. The memory of Lear howling, undone, carrying Cordelia’s body, comes to my mind often. In those last few moments of the play, a teenage boy in front of us started crying, and his mother, alarmed, anxiously asked him what was wrong. I think about that a lot too. Nothing was wrong, ma’am. Your son enjoyed the play. But I think you paid too much for your ticket. And so I had to quickly stop being indignant at the mother so I could have a cry too.
On a warm day earlier this spring I was attending a course downtown for work and it struck me during a blander bit how much I would like a Frappuccino. There are a number of Starbucks locations downtown and so I left to find one. The closest was only a few blocks away, and when I arrived, there was a long lineup, which I stood patiently at the end of. I couldn't help noticing that the staff looked harried. Soon enough I was placing my order, and from the vantage point of where a person stands, having placed their order, to wait for it to be prepared, I noticed that the lineup after me was just as long as it was when I started standing in it. But the baristas worked tirelessly, and eventually I was the only customer left in the Starbucks. A worker asked me what it was that I had ordered, and I reminded him, not angrily though, that I had ordered a Frappuccino. So he blended me my drink, and gave it to me along with a coupon I could use next time for any Starbucks beverage I wanted, free, because I had waited so long. I saved the coupon; I kept it in my wallet; I was very pleased with it. It was worth more to me than any free coffee product.
Yesterday evening, after dinner, my wife asked me to give our baby his bath while she went for a little walk, and said she would return in time to put him to bed. When she came back, she told me that a troupe of actors was performing The Two Noble Kinsmen by John Fletcher and William Shakespeare (the latter, I have a feeling, being the contributor of the good parts) in the park, and that people had brought lawn chairs and children to see them, and that they were called the Torchlight Players because they planted torches into the ground so that they could see to act, and that admission was free but they passed a hat, and that I would really like it and should go. I said I would think about but I left pretty well right away, stopping only at a convenience store to buy some ice cream and a red SoBe drink before walking the rest of the way to the park to see the play. I had ten dollars and some change on me, for the hat.
I did like it. Even though I’d missed half of the play, it was delightful; I was caught up in it. The six actors were very busy, very enthusiastic, very funny. When the play ended everyone applauded them. Someone from the audience took it upon herself to rise and employ an embarrassing number of words to thank them for coming to our neighborhood park. When the players were finally allowed to begin explaining the concept of the hat, I knew I would give them my ten dollars. And then it hit me, because I had enjoyed the play so much, to put my free Starbucks coupon in the hat as well. It occurred to me that there might be some problem as to how they would divide it among themselves later when they counted the evening’s take, but I figured that this was a truer acknowledgement of my appreciation for their work. I gave them ten dollars so that they could pay for the things they needed, but I gave them the coupon, even though I loved it, because their work had bestirred fine, fine memories and feelings in me, and had even given me some new ones to carry and hold. It was a fair exchange, a better use of the coupon than redeeming it for another Frappuccino. And as I turned to walk back home, I started weeping, maybe because I’m sentimental, maybe because my body bears some stress, maybe just because I enjoyed the play and will remember it. Or maybe you can judge my heart more accurately than I can, but I can’t help feeling that the dividend is the having.